The Miami Dolphins face the Las Vegas Raiders later this afternoon. This is the second season in a row that Miami has visited the Raiders at their new stadium in Las Vegas, with the Dolphins winning 26-25 last year. Can they repeat that success this year and erase the taste of last week’s loss to the Buffalo Bills?
For a better look at the Raiders, I turned to Matt Holder from the SB Nation Raiders site, Silver and Black Pride. You can check out the dolphins side of our chat here.
Kevin Nogle (KN): The Raiders’ defense has been scary the first two weeks of the season, especially the attack rush that does it without much blitz. Miami’s biggest weakness so far has been the offensive line, which may not even have been on the pitch last week against the Bills. What has been the key to Oakland’s defensive emergence this season and how struggling is Miami’s offensive line?
Matt Holder (MH): I think the biggest difference has been a change in philosophy. With Paul Guenther as the defensive coordinator, the Raiders tried to build a defense first and that’s why they made some decisions like drafting Clelin Ferrell against Josh Allen. Now that Gus Bradley has taken over, he has the defensive line playing a much simpler scheme and just allowing them to get on the field and speed up, then react to the run.
This has always been Bradley’s plan since his time in Seattle. He’s going to sit in the cover and is okay with giving up three yards by rush or short dink and dunk passes, but eventually you have to throw the ball into the field and that helped unlock a guy like Maxx Crosby, who was known for his downhill and athleticism as a rusher in Eastern Michigan. Plus, the addition of Yannick Ngakoue has helped alleviate some of the pressure on Crosby, so the Raiders have really made a point of responding to the pass rush this offseason and it’s already paying off.
Yeah, I think Miami’s offensive line is in trouble. Las Vegas have five sacks as a team in two games and when it comes to pressures, PFF ratings and those more advanced numbers, they’re one of the best teams in the league. And like you said, it was pretty ugly for the big Dolphins mobsters last week.
KN: The Las Vegas offensive line had to contend with injuries early in the season, including losing guard Denzelle Good for the year and without guard Richie Incognito (who was with Miami ten years ago and does so always). How does the line hold together?
MH: It is trembling. Richie Incognito hasn’t trained for a month, so it doesn’t look like he’ll be playing, and he was in a similar situation last year where he was injured but wasn’t put on IR for a while. time and ended up missing the season. I’m not trying to say it will happen again, but the Raiders may have to play the season with two reserve goalies, while also breaking into a new center.
* Note: Since speaking with Holder, the Raiders have placed Incognito on the injured list.
While I wouldn’t say the Las Vegas situation is as bad as Miami – sorry for the shooting there – like the Dolphins, the Raiders’ offensive line is probably the weakest part of the team.
Left tackle Kolton Miller is a stallion who lives up to his new contract so far, but the other four have struggled, in part because two of them were supposed to be substitutes. First-round pick Alex Leatherwood was still supposed to be a starter, however, and he struggled to protect himself from the passes.
Granted, the Ravens and Steelers are two tough first draws for a young and new offensive line, but I’m afraid a guy like Christian Wilkins is wreaking havoc in the backfield.
KN: The Raiders have just 134 rushing yards this season, in part because Josh Jacobs missed last week. Meanwhile, Derek Carr leads the league in passing attempts (93) and is 128 yards ahead of the next most passing yards (817 vs. 689 for Kyler Murray). Are the Raiders just a pass-and-pass type of team or should we expect a return to a balanced offensive philosophy? Are offensive line injuries part of pass first, pass second, pass third offense?
MH: Do I think Josh Jacobs would improve things a bit? Yes. Do I think it would make such a difference that running the ball was no longer a problem? No.
The Raiders are currently averaging 2.9 yards per carry as a team, which ranks dead last in the NFL. As you mentioned in your question, yes the offensive line and the wounds inflicted on it made the group of positions struggling to get a lot of movement in the rushed attack. Again, they played against a few good ones before seven so I think this week will be a good test if they can move the ball around on the ground a bit better.
To answer your question on philosophy, it looks like Jon Gruden had a feeling his team was going to struggle up front. He’s also made up more shots this year with either playing action and / or keeping an extra blocker or two to help the offensive line in pass protection, and Derek Carr is much more aggressive than in the past. , which leads to more big games. .
KN: On that same note, Jacobs doesn’t appear to be available this week. Another former Dolphins player, Kenyan Drake, started for the Raiders, but Peyton Barber led in rushes and rushing yards. Should we expect to see Barber or Drake this weekend?
MH: When Jacobs was kicked out last week, a reporter asked Gruden if that meant it would be a big game for Drake. Gruden responded by talking about Peyton Barber and how this was going to be a huge opportunity for him.
This quote took a lot of people in the Raider world, including me, in shock. We all thought they brought in Drake for this reason, to be the second option behind Jacobs, who has a history of injuries. But, as you pointed out, Barber got the lion’s share of races, including the most important ones to help seal the late-game victory over the Steelers.
Now Drake was still part of the game plan, just more as a receiver. I’m not sure if that was because of what I was talking about above, playing Pittsburgh’s tough defense with a new offensive line, or how they plan to curl up the two full-backs to move forward. If I had to guess, I think we’ll see a good mix of Drake and Barber on Sunday.
KN: A 2-0 start against two playoff teams from the previous year must feel good. What are your expectations for the Raiders for the rest of the year?
MH: It really feels good to be 2-0 and beat two quality opponents. However, the Raiders are 6-4 with âeasiest program remainingâ for the past two straight years and have failed to advance to the playoffs, so I’d say I’m cautiously optimistic.
The biggest difference though was defense, which I think leaves more room for optimism this time around. Even when the team won in 2019 and 2020, the defense was still bad and of concern but, as I mentioned above, that is not the case so far in 2021.
This is the fourth year of the Gruden 2.0 era, so I think it’s reasonable for fans to expect the Raiders to advance to the playoffs this year, especially after a hot start.